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  CSPAN    Capital News Today    News/Business. News.  

    July 20, 2011
    11:00 - 2:00am EDT  

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senator cantwell. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for the hearing and lessons and prevention and response and restoration are important issues as i outlined in my opening statement. i'm concerned about the future as it relates to the pacific northwest, and, admiral, i appreciate your testimony today. i wanted to ask you we put into the coast guard bill pushing cost guard to do analysis of the u.s.-canadian oil spill response agreement. can you tell me whether some analysis has been done and what you think the agreements are between the united states and canada? >> i can't on the record produce that, but certainly i'd be pleased to do so. i will say we have regular, at least on a quarterly basis, interactions with our canadian partners and everything from oil spill to, you know, security among our common borders, but i would be glad to provide you an update. >> thank you.
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you'll give me an analysis of those, what you think the existing agreements are and how they work and -- >> yes, senator. >> thank you. do you think -- i mean, god forbid such an oil spill would happen in canadian waters, do you think according to whatever this is, verbal agreement or things that you have now, do you think the united states can enter those waters without the oil spill entering the united states? >> we have ship writer agreements where we do law enforcement in canadian waters just as we invite rcnp officers on to our vessels so we eliminate the seam between the united states and canada, and i'm quite satisfied we can do that in an environmental capacity. i'm also as part of the arctic consul for search and rescue, and the next part of that is looking at carbon emissions and maritime environment in the
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arctic domain. canada is in that and dedicated to the commitment as well. >> so you think the answer is, yes, you can respond to an oil spill in canadian waters? >> i am confident that we will be able to do so. >> okay. and do you think that you can require supertankers to have a tug escort when they are a few miles within american waters? >> we traditionally will work with the international maritime organization to ensure that, you know, these are global, often time global issues that may affect ship routeing with unintended consequences. we look for the best practices. they certainly exist when i was the commander of the 11th district in california where we had the costco, and there's areas of tankers that require
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tug escorts. certainly that structure is in place in select ports based on a given risk. >> do you think we should look at the policy as it relates to increase in traffic given the nature of the pugot sound? i mean, it's a tricky waterway -- i think the chart is still here and shows and designated pristine area in the country. do you think we should be reviewing this increase use of tanker traffic? it's almost a 45% increase. >> with any of these decisions, we do an extensive amount of outreach whether it's with advisory committees, with the pilot associations, you know, with our port authorities because there are, you know, if there's a rule makes, it does have cost implications as well, but certainly if those risk factors are made known to us, yeah, it would be the imptous for rule making to agree with
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that. it does imply canadian waters where this traffic originates that that would be a challenge for us. >> what is your assessment of the canadians' ability to respond to an oil spill in this area? >> i'll just go back to the spill of significance we conducted last year. it was up in new england, and that would have impacted canadian waters as well. we invited canada to participate, and they participated at the executive level, not in the observer status, but certainly recognized that we cannot allow seems to exist because oil is agnostic to borders, and that we need to be able to bridge that gap with appropriate response measures on both sides of that border. >> i feel you're being very diplomatic, so if i ask you to grade them, you would probably hesitate, but my point is do you
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think they have the same preparedness that we do in responding to oil spills in the nart west? >> any comment i make, senator, would be speculative, but certainly their earnestness in being a partner with the u.s. coast guard and with our regional response team process for under the national contingency plan, i see them as committed partners. >> you think they have the same capacity that we do? >> i could not answer that question. >> will you, in your analysis, of the u.s. agreement give us a sense of what you think their capacity is? this is a very big issue. the amount of traffic increase going through this very delicate waterway is tricky systems where, again, most of the traffic we're talking about from pugot sound requires local pilots and a variety of things. these are important issues, so we're look to get your views on the record for that. >> i'll be pleased to provide
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that, thank you. >> thank you. mr. chairman? >> thank you. let me emphasize the last point with alaska and the border. if there's issues that you identify that may be gaps or you're unaware because the information isn't there, i think we need to know that because of the work. i know my state does. i know your state does with canada on a regular basis. they visit our offices fairly regular because of issues of trade and fish and many other things that i think it would be very important for us to know, and i think a part of our role should be to assist and make sure their standards equal -- obviously love to exceed, but at least equal to what we require at this moment. as you do that analysis, can you step to the next level saying here's areas we were unable to analyze, but clear we need review of. i think that's what senator cantwell is trying to get to. we want to help and make sure --
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we need to know you should sit in a room like this and say they are and fill in the lank. that's the relationship we need with the oil spill capacity. i think that's where you were going. >> yes, mr. chairman, thank you, absolutely. >> i look forward to providing that information. >> okay. i have a couple questions for you. mr. kennedy, i know there's an environmental response management application, a gis tool used quite a bit in the gulf of gulf, and i know there's one in the arctic being developed. can you give me what's happening with that at this point and the status of that development? >> so this is a product that we have developed just as a tool to help with management of the spill response which was more or less launched in the months prior to deepwater horizon and turn out to be extremely successful tool. basically, a product with data layers and the ability to
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collect it in the event of a spill. there's a central location where all the information required by all the responders is valet -- available in a variety of forms. we started that process. it's somewhat geography specific, and so you need to have it set up so it can specifically spot to the uniqueness of the region that you're trying to develop it for. we have begun the arctic. i'm -- i will have to get back to you to give you a specific date, but it's underway, and we expect to have a product i think by the end of the year, but let me get that. >> thank you. another question. i know you developed an mou, an mutual understanding agreement between yourself and boemre. can you tell me related to information you would provide in their process, can you tell me how that coordination is going? this is in regards to offshore
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energy and decision making, and can you give me a sense? there's industry folks nervous to create delayment i want a sense for you on that and do you have the resources and expertise to do that work? >> so, yes, we do have mou. we worked with the old boemre, mms, over the years, had a partnership with them, always felt like there's more that we can do to partner, so this mou we think is the next best good step to have us at the table as we have these kinds of discussions. i think it'll do two things. i think it'll bring a level of expertise and i'm hoping efficiency to the process we haven't had because we haven't been at the table as proarlt -- appropriately as we would have liked to have been.
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to date, i think that relationship is blossoming, and we are now engaging much more quickly and often with them as we discuss leasing and drilling issues, and we look forward, i think it's a new enough relationship and new enough organization that we want to watch and see how it goes, but we look forward to having the ability, and we think it will prove to be more efficient and effective. >> do you have the resources to do that? the expertise? >> i was hoping i'd have the opportunity to answer senator lautenberg's question as well because i thought it was a very good question for us, and we, for a loping time have tried to look at our ability to respond to spills as the basis are we at a point nationally that we can do our job? the answer for noaa is no, we don't have the resources to respond to two spills, and over the last several years, the resources for the specific group that does most of our core
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response has had to be right sized because of a lack of resources, and during the course of this event, everybody that still wasn't in a walker that had retired and was still somewhere around, we brought back to try and just have enough resources to respond to this one spill, so given the budgets we're looking at, we're very concerned about the ability to continue to respond appropriately. >> okay, can you for the record do two responses on that? one is for the decision making process, the new mou, what resources you think you need in order to accomplish that, and the second part is this more global oil spill capacity itself, what you think the response or resources need is for that. can you do that, if possible, for the record? >> yes. >> there's real numbers and expertise and so forth. >> we'd be happy to do that. >> great. i'll ask the admiral quick
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questions, and then questions for both of you to submit for the record in more detail. i know the commission recommended the coast guard work and you said the work was with state and local entities in alaska. we have successful regional citizen advisory counsels, one in prince william sound and advocating one for the arctic also. can you tell me is that the kind of increase local participation that makes sense for the coast guard? those kind of regional advise recoupables to help do your work better and also respond to the commission's recommendation? >> certainly, chairman, and we have a lead role in that process as well, and that was one of the key lessons learned is that at the local level there was not full awareness of the oil spill contingency plans, the environmentally sensitive areas, and just the government structure that's in place, and
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certainly that's going to be especially critical as we look at the arctic, and it's understanding the culture of the arctic and the tribal entities that reside there as well, and so we've been doing a lot of outreach, you know, in those communities as we look at increased human activity and then the impact of that activity in that precious environment. >> and if i can just emphasize the point earlier that again regarding opa90 and other processes that we have put into place over the years, your recommendations and thoughts on that will be clear. i know we mentioned that earlier to follow-up to senator nelson's comments. do what you can there. last question for both of you because i can't remember if either one of your agencies are doing this or who is doing it, i don't know why this is in my mind, but is there a competition now for oil spill technology that's undergoing literally as we speak? i think there's an alaska
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company involved? there's like ten companies. i don't know if it's noaa, coast guard, or someone else. does this ring a bell to either one of you? mr. kennedy, you shook your head yes, so you're the target here. am i right on this? is ten companies competing for the best oil spill skimming technology? >> i can only highlight the issue because i haven't been directly involved. i have one of -- an individual working for me more involved, but in the course of this event and the idea of what else should we, could we be thinking about that might be the silver bullet or help somehow that was an idea hatched to come up with a prize through a competition. there was a team put together and admiral z, i don't know if you recall the specifics of it, but, yes, there's an effect underway, a call for proposals. there is some finalistses, and
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there is a competition that's being -- i don't know whether it's been completely evaluated yet, but it's in the process of being evaluated with our winners that would be awarded some funds to move forward. >> okay. i would be very interested, i'm sure the committee too. i know there's an alaska company, and that's why it's in my mind and starting this month. i'd be interested to see what that is. i have to commend you it's a great idea to challenge the private sector for innovation around this because the spill technology or spill cleanup has not changed much in the last 20 years. also innovators, i think it's interesting as you develop the response to that or how it comes about. if you can share that with the committee, that'd be great. i'll end there and thank you, both, for being the first panel and helping us understand what we can do. i'll present additional
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questions for you for the record, and we thank you both for being here. >> thank you. >> we'll let the second panel get some adjustment. .. >> again, we have four additional witnesses and again, some members here have already submitted questions for you for the record that you will see soon after this meeting so be
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prepared for that. several have indicated that. let me introduce the next panel. the first one will be the honorable rover robert centcom commissioner of escambia county in florida. dr. eugene turner chaired professor distinguish master and faculty louisiana state university baton rouge. group director for operations of american institute, and jim ayers senior adviser ocean conservatory. thank you for being here today. what i would like to do is i'm going to go down the row here and keep your comments to five minutes. i will have questions in the same thing i will have some for the record that i will not be able to get to based on our time. so let me start with mr. robertson. >> on behalf of florida's 67 counties and more specifically the eighth gulf coast counties in northwest florida i would like to thanked chairman begich and the committee members for
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the opportunity to address the atmosphere fisheries and subcommittee this afternoon. i stand before you today as a seventh generation veridian. over 200 years my family has survived and thrived in escambia county through a civil war, countless hurricanes and various cycles of economic booms and the processions however the deep water horizons build 2000 has rocked our community like no other than. is chairman of the escambia county commission i found myself at the epicenter of florida's oil spill for the last 14 months. is my experience during that time that i would wish to share your thier committee today suggestions related to reform as well as suggestions for money for the clean water act penalties. in april 2000 the united states and the gulf coast faced a crisis unlike anything we have ever seen and a tragedy that struck took 11 lives, countless jobs and caused extensive damage. florida's experience was disastrous. in escambia county's no
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exception. east year we respond to hurricanes. florida's emergency response teams are the best in the country and arguably the world. city county and state first responders practice and prepare year-round to respond and recover from potential disasters. shortly after the oil spill escambia county was given 48 hours to repair oil in their beaches. we declared a state of emergency which predated the state of florida and prepared a plan to block a more fragile estuaries. within 24 hours of escambia county declaring our state of emergency the state of florida declared a state of emergency and we were introduced to the unified command structure. with the threat of oil eminent and a plan in place we were ready to do what was needed to protect our environment and also our economy yet we were stopped dead and told that we must except the protection plans of experts to never step foot in escambia county in a nothing
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about the tidal flows in intricacies of our faith. now instead of putting a boom in protecting pensacola bay and perdido bay passes we are arguing with strangers about what was best for the local waterways. the system set up the oil pollution act of 1990 and simply did not work in disaster situations. while there are many aspects that are affected such as command structure, federal waters in the national response damage assessment otherwise known as an narco-process the response process and local jurisdictions must be change. while i recognized it could not be applied uniformly to a man-made disaster there's there is a fundamental element that should be applied regardless. it is that local experts need to be included in determining a response and recovery plan for local jurisdictions. the very people that have lived in may their livelihoods in our community are best suited to know that the priorities must be
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placed in what is needed to provide adequate protection for the environmental resources of that community. i would no more pretend to know how to adequately respond to the oil spill in the gulf of alaska or golf county florida than an outsider would know how to protect the gulf shores and estuaries in escambia county. ultimately the oil that was 48 hours offshore actually ended up taking 30 days to make it to our beaches. they should've allowed us ample time to implement plans to protect our passes and waterways. unfortunately oppa prevented us from implementing our plans until july by which time the well was capped. we spent the first 75 days using inadequate plans provided by unifam command that were not affect the bin wasted money. my point is local government provided better protection to the estuaries and perdido and pensacola base than the citizens in escambia county as well as provide a cost savings to unified command and even british petroleum. the only thing that prevented us
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from this protection was oppa. i've said many times including to admiral landry that it is my belief that the coast guard and other federal agencies were staffed with good people who wanted to do the right thing for our community and nation however they were prevented by the rules presented by the oil prevention act of 1990. reform must be enacted to allow for more effective and environmental assets by local state and federal jurisdictions working together. local government has a place in the planning coordination and communication and implementation of disaster strategies and decisions and this omission will meet -- lead to failure. i would like to close by saying there are still time to make some of this right in the clean water act. no what dui and trustees are going to bring studies for the best methods for restoring resources. this process so far as been inclusive and for that we are grateful. i am also pleased to say a escambia county is recovering.
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our beaches are as beautiful as ever were but what we may recover on the outside the scars never leave us. prior to the deep water horizon oil spill i operated a successful real estate business started by my late father in 1977. like any other businesses i've received claims due to the oil spill yet my business has not fully recovered. so much so that ultimately my wife and i had to make the hard decision to merge with another firm after 34 years of existence. i am not alone. there are countless small businesses that have suffered a similar fate. any funds received due to the fines from the clean water act should be directed to coastal counties that were impacted from the spill so investment can be made for long-term recovery of this region and our communities. both environmentally and economically. we must take -- we must now turn his disaster around rounded seize the opportunities before us. we must take the opportunity to learn from our mistakes in
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reform oboe. we must take the opportunity through the nrda process to help bombardment fully recover from the tar on her white sands and we must take the opportunity to use the clean water act to invest in the gulf coast and our economy. not just to survive this disaster but to thrive in spite of it. thank you for the work each of you do for our country and citizens in thank you or the time to hear my testimony. >> thank you mr. robertson. >> thank you senator in thank sr in thank you for holding these hearings. i hate to field work and i've been working on this for 35 years. is on the marshall's last week and i will be offshore for two weeks as of next sunday and i will speak to you about some of the things in the field. the oil has not gone away. you to walk in the martian you can smell it. and the crust on the marshes still there and you can probe
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the martian, with fresh oil. it hasn't gone away and it is has is head and pecks in the marsh and offshore we have the grand canyon, grand teton's offshore that very few people see that we know it has been impacted and things have been -- and a disproportionate amount of oil in the central gulf of mexico, 6% of the oil shoreline is in louisiana. i think 70% of the birds were oiled and 40% of the turtles. i will come back to make recommendations about what might be done next but i would like to make comments about the context of what is happening. we can't say that we know very much right now because we are trying to figure out for example the shoreline a road it more because of the oil are just a little bit more? is it synergistically larger that has lost 22% of the
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wetlands? this will make it a lot larger in effect may be striking the shoreline in some cases. if you figure out that the context we are talking about, a certain amount of the oil went into the marsh and how much was lost and how much of the area was shoreline, it might be in in the order of a few square miles a year that could be lost. we are losing that much every year already. primarily we have a very dramatic loss that might happen and we have this chronic background loss. i think the restoration is taken in the context of what is going on as a whole restoration can be done as a whole with these background factors in mind. as we have understandable desires to protect the shoreline from hurricanes inflict protection and that may require levees that those levees will destroy wetlands behind them so we are trying to restore wetlands that if we are losing
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wetlands with these conflicting desires. big raymond's word -- have more people at the table and not fewer. that includes the whole suite of things involved in the oil spill. the funds are being asked to carry some of this. it gets to be fairly complex and that doesn't mean we have to be timid about engaging in these. as an example of the complexity i'm on a panel making recommendations on what to do with the oil spill money. it will be out in a few weeks probably that one of the things that is in there is going to be to address this issue of hypoxia offshore which is a dead zone and driven mainly by new trend release from the midwest. the nutrients are driving wetlands lost through the restoration technique of draining river water into them which is because of the more detailed than you want to hear right now but it is causing wetland loss because the nutrients in the rivers are
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going into these wetlands. a win-win solution is to restore the water quality offshore and for the wetland restoration technique to be used in a productive way. the way to use the oil spill is perhaps to have watershed demonstration watersheds on the scale of the tda project so if it can facilitate more effective use of the farm bill funds so the farmers actually according to all the work of the communities they actually use fewer subsidies and at greater profits and better water quality. is totally a win-win solution including local governance as they outlined in the pew workshop. in terms of some quick observations about what went wrong or what might go better next time, one of the salient issues is that we have to have greater involvement and it would help to have greater local involvement and understanding
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and participation expertise available and there are several federal programs underutilized in the gulf. the natural gesture and reserves. including louisiana which is the only state that doesn't have a natural aashto wayne program. and that is one thing that is missing out of this. we didn't have a good baseline monitoring going on for long-term monitoring. we didn't have funding in the oil spill happen. you can't measure impacts if you don't have pre-impact data and we could not get that. the only agency that helped us with the national science foundation. their tactics were unusual but they did come through with some. the last detail is a most of the
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assessments were damages from toxicities based on individual species and not on the -- and may be good to the lawyers because it is very precise. they don't represent reality in the field. they need to have a greater sense of a more holistic view of damages when they do these assessments and i'm out of time so i will stop. >> thank you very much dr. turner. mr. milito. >> good afternoon chairman begich, senator rubio. i am eric milito. api has more than four and 70 member companies which represent all sectors of america's oil and natural gas industry. industry supports 9.2 million american jobs including a 170,000 in the gulf of mexico related to the offshore development business and also provides most of the energy we need to power our economy and a way of life and delivers more
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than $86 million a day in revenue to the federal government. it has been more than year since the tragic macondo well accident. we cannot forget the industry and nation lost 11 workers that day and our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the families of those workers. to be certain incident provided us with a sobering reminder we must maintain a laser focus on safety as is a priority in operations. immediately after the accident industry formed task forces to examine every aspect of offshore safety systems including equipment, operating practices, subsidy will control and spill response. due to the leadership and work of the industry we now have enhanced capabilities innate of the key areas prevention capping and containment and spill response. as an industry we recognize the most effective oil spill response is to prevent it from happening in the first place. therefore a great deal of attention is always been placed on prevention. the recommendations developed by the industry task force was formed the basis of some of the regulations we have now and prevention.
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these include requirements for maintaining multiple barriers turning while construction and limitation of various new testing requirements during drilling operations, adoption of api recommended practice on -- cementing. the industry is developing a recommended practice which will help improve deepwater well-designed and installation practices as well as bullets and 97 which is a joint effort between api in the international association of drilling contractors intended to help link, improve the link between a safety system of a drilling contractor with the lease operator. representatives of the bureau regulations and enforcement participating the standard-setting activities referenced in the regulations. the industry is putting the final pieces in place for its new center for offshore safety. which will have up and running later this year. the center will focus on the development and implementation of safety and environmental management systems and deepwater
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operations drawing on the collective knowledge and experience of the industry in promoting use of the best safety practices. however should an incident occur, repaired as becomes a key factor in determining the effectiveness of the response and the post-macondo world the industry has invested significant resources and the development of the capping and containment solution to stop the flow at its source. these efforts include the marine will containment company in the helix will containment group will ensure the industry can quickly cap and contain a leaking well. in terms of spill response the actions taken following the macondo incident effectively minimize the impact of the environment and ecosystem. the spill this bill itself was unprecedented but would -- with close to 50,000 people, 13.5 million feet of home, 125 planes and several rigs, so was the response. it continues to be on to intermediate potentially affected areas.
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while preliminary reports have shown the impact of the shoreline seafood and vitality of the area are significantly less than what was anticipated the long-term impacts will continue to be monitored and studied. moving forward industry is committed to review the entire spill response system identifying any potential gaps and address where necessary. we have initiated this review on issues such as disbursements, and mechanical recovery. this review of effort involves u.s. and international stakeholders. is open to the entire industry covers both golf and alaska activities and seeks government and put into the program. great strides have been made to enhance industry's capabilities to prevent it the incident from happening to capping container leaking well and to respond to a spill while committed to building on this progress. we are also prepared to safely and fully resume operations in the gulf, alaska and other areas. the permitting moves forward at a reasonable pace for projects in the gulf alum so we can put
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190,000 people to work, safely bring more energy to america's consumers and deliver many billions of dollars in additional revenue to the federal treasury. thank you in this concludes my statements. i would be happy to take any questions. >> thank you very much mr. milito. let me move to mr. ayers mr. ayers and then we will go to questions. >> chairman begich, senator rubio thank you for the invitation to be here today. i am testifying today in my capacity as a senior adviser and consultant to the ocean conservancy although i have other conservation clients as well. the national marine conservation organization, a scientist citizens and volunteers to promote a healthy ocean and have done so for over 40 years and headquartered in d.c.. my testimony will address three things. first prevention preparedness and response in recommendations with regard to my experience with deepwater horizon and exxon valdez. second restoration and there had
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in reference to the arctic and what i believe is an imperative approach. among many other things i served as executive director of the exxon valdez oil spill trustee council and led the effort to develop and implement a conference of restoration plan. i later became chief of staff for a supported that plan and move forward with preparedness including issues that were mentioned earlier by senator cantwell like shipping and continue preparedness and prevention. in short, we are not prepared. we are not yet committed to prevention and the oil pollution act of 1990 though it has done a lot of good, had significant holes and in particular with regard to response. here are my recommendations on how to fix the problem. first we must integrate spill prevention and preparedness into the oil and gas decision-making process. congress should mandate the baseline science and an understanding of the marine ecosystem in which we intend to
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drill as fully understood that an informed decisions about if we should drill, when, where and how are based on science. it also means giving a stronger role to the expert industries like noaa and coast guard and the aforementioned insufficiently now funded and not given the authority to incorporate worst-case scenarios and the planning process. we must require the best available technology and engineering to be brought forward into the process. that is currently not a mandate and i have participated in that and find myself guilty. it is our responsibility to bring the best and brightest of america to bear on this project and on this issue of offshore drilling and we have not done so. second way to step up our game with respect to spill response. government regulators and industry operators must ensure and demonstrate that they have trained personnel and equipment
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sufficient to contain, control and clean up worst-case discharge. as you heard earlier the cascading approach of bringing supplies equipment and personnel from other states and other nations is insufficient in protecting our nation's ocean resources. the coast guard must be authorized in london to ensure that responsible parties, oils bill response plans and area contingency plans are in fact in place, and comply with the national contingency plans based in your question earlier. although it suggested that national contingency plan it is not mandated nor is it in place today. third, congress must commit the financial resources necessary to ensure that agencies like the coast guard and know what can do their job. i humbly suggest a small increase in the per barrel tax of a liability and trust fund would provide the funding necessary to ensure a responsibility is met and in fact would be certain provisions
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that would allow and ensure that america can comply. with the requirements of preparedness and prevention and response. america's oil, america's oceans. oil companies sell oil. is the governments responsibility to ensure that the public trust is protected. let's move quickly to restoration. restoration is becoming a part of our culture and our economy from the tundra to the gulf and yellowstone to chesapeake. this countries engaged in restoration will be for the rest of this generation. i'm pleased to restoration plan is moving forward in the golf with the gulf ecosystem task force created by the president and the natural resources trustees under open 90 or moving forward with a restoration plan but i have several critical elements to suggest. based on my experience with the exxon valdez oil spill we must have a common vision for healthy biodiverse productive golf and we must have clear measurable objectives and rigorous criteria
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for moving forward with projects. to make this happen, congress should demonstrate that america will not sacrifice the long-term health and biodiversity of the gulf of mexico or any other large ecosystem of this country for short-term industrial production of any kind. that must begin with dedicating a significant portion of the clean water act penalty as as been done by senator rockefeller and senate bill 1140. some piece of those penalties should he directed in a separate account within the united states treasury with the earnings of that account supporting a long-term gulf ecosystem monitoring and observation research program and with that said mr. chairman let the say that the science-based approach that i'm suggesting would work and the arctic as well and as you can see, it if science is missing in both applications, both in the preparedness and
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response and also in the restoration, congress should act now to establish a long-term scientific monitoring observation research program and ensure response capabilities are in place before offshore environment is exposed to widespread industrial activity in the arctic and the intended risks therein. finally, at a broader level mr. chairman although the senator snowe is not here let me mention that congress should ensure that the united states has the financial resources necessary to be an effective steward of its ocean and coastal ecosystems. the national endowment for oceans at cosponsored by ranking member snowe and other members of this committee would do just that. the conservancy recognizes the united states must continue to develop energy. it is an imperative. but we must do so the right way and we can do it right. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you mr. ayers. what i will do, senator rubio i'm going to do seven minutes.
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i will allow you up to seven minutes and i will you go first and then i will finish up. >> thank you and i'm not sure we'll need the full seven minutes though i appreciate that. thank you for being a part of the commission. i was in northwest florida last week and a small business committee allowed us to do a field hearing on the spill. at the couple three separate questions and i think they can all be probably answer but the first is one of the concerns i kept hearing which i guess i had heard before. but it was really articulated to me in a way that i hadn't thought about it deeply before. their sesno concern in the gulf region that the spill happened but the full impact may not be known for years. people get there and they look around and it is good news. there is no oil in the sand but in fact there's a bunch of oil out there somewhere and its impact may be delayed. i've heard a lot of concern from folks about that. in particular their concern was that they were going to set up a response process through the clean water act that a few years
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from now if there is some delayed impact they want be any funds or mechanism in place for that. there will be a gap between the response this year and the impact that may be felt years down the road. i don't know if there is any thoughts on that you would share with us but it is certainly a line that i'm going to be pursuing up here as we move forward on that process. >> who would like to respond to that? >> absolutely. you can have a chronic undermining of the strength of an ecosystem and have a event like a hurricane that will reveal it. the hurricane only comes every 15 years the area. there can be delayed response and they're just not obvious to the eyes because they are happening for example in the marsh. >> i think there are two separate issues we really ought to address that we learn from the exxon valdez and they were 18 months into it before i realized the situation along with their science advisers.
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the first is that it is imperative that is in as possible there is a monitoring observation and research program that is established. we did that at only 18 months after we began the program. that research and monitoring program is still in operation in alaska today and it is a separate account like the one i suggested the setup which is a full monitoring observation research program. the second is the issue that you are referring to senator, and that is in alaska there are still places and prince william sound and the community around cordova and valdez and cheney kind of the places where oil is still found. there are still storms that churn out those hydrocarbons and i think that will continue to be the case in the gulf of mexico for many years to come. >> my second observation is a newer issue and i don't know what perception i have about it. is related specifically again to the gulf. cuba has recently announced that
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it will begin to explore off its coast, and from the science i have been shown a spill in one of those sites would be even more catastrophic than what happened based on the currents and occurrence and the way it would take it. i think there would only be 40 or 50 miles away from the florida keys. much closer than even what happened with the recent oil spill. are there any recommendations you have about how to deal with a foreign drilling operation like that in terms of things we should -- what we can do because ultimately if there is a spill in the cuban operation, its impact would be fully felt by the entire gulf region and actually the entire eastern seas board -- ybor potentially. it is an territorial waters. has any work ever been done on that and is there a good good example of transnational corp. and i will leave that one out there quickly. i just want to reaffirm what the
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commissioner said about florida's response. we are proud of our emergency response operations in the state and i hope moving forward when we have response mechanisms not just for oil spills but in general that recognize the people on the ground who deal on a daily basis with the geography and topography of a certain area and know it better with all due respect than a well-intentioned scientists far away who think they have a better idea. i just want to echo that because they're a very strong comments. >> senator rubio, i apologize if we missed you. we wanted to testify that we were doing redistricting so you know how long that takes. i think it is important what you said, the fact that we need to be at the table. florida and its individual counties need to be the table if something happens regarding response. clearly we were 110 miles away in escambia county from the deepwater horizon well and did did not prevent us from having impacts. clearly when it comes to response i think there there is something in here. i was just in portland with --
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and there are comments that again in some places it works well and that is when they engage in the local comments we heard from senator egg h.'s constituents in alaska. there were people from montana and yellowstone. there other places on the gulf to did not have the same experience. of the go-ahead and say now that you have to include those local governmental authority so they can engage in the process and began response immediately i think that is going to be important to continue to help at least courtney that response. we are all very concerned and what happens if we don't have responsible party? >> as far as the other countries and the particular issue of cuba is very concerning. there are companies we don't know a lot about that are talking about being a part of this. we don't know what safety standards they have. my point being that this bill would be just as disastrous, as disastrous if not more. are there any thoughts or is
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there any model that would follow or any president? >> senator rubio, this committee has led the way with regard to fisheries and taking major standards or important standards in this country into the international arena, both in terms of action policy and even legislation and a recent senate joint resolution. certainly it is my view that ultimately is what is going to have to happen including with senator cantwell's over shipping although it is governed by the imo, international maritime organization. but if the standards for offshore drilling is first a matter of this country, and i won't repeat my suggestions but those standards are really the beginning of a discussion that ought to go into the international arena and we have done that with fisheries in many ways, from drift nets to bottom trawling and certainly the state department and noah and the coast guard have been very
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involved. i have exhausted my time but the only point i would like to raise for further discussion and i don't think we of the time to do it today, but at some point especially companies doing is this here, i would like to figure out a way where we can create leverage because this bill and one of these places would the deeply disastrous as much as anywhere else so i hope we will have those conversations in the future. >> thank you very much senator rubio and actually that is a really good.. as you were talking i was thinking that many of those same companies do business in federal waters and state waters and on federal lands and you never know maybe there is an opportunity through our lease agreement that we have so it is a good question. and mr. ayers brought up a good point about the fisheries especially out of this committee. they have done international activities that have had great international standards so it is a good question and a good point for later down the road too.
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mr. robinson if i could follow-up because i think your response to senator rubio because of some of the work we are doing in alaska and let me just ask you, last year we had to shore shore act that we were moving through. it created a citizens advisory council similar to what we have in the prince william sound and civic is engage. they are not regulatory but they are advisory in early stages of prevention and other things as well as monitoring and a lot of activities. is that an avenue or something that would be a positive step? i know in the legislation we had last year we have bad had that and it seems like it -- we do these after spills. that is the problem. that is why we are advocating for the arctic before we developed the arctic. >> thank you mr. chairman. i think it is and the national
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association of counties took a strong advocacy asking all of you in congress to look at it including local governments and it was while several of us around the golf back here in washington in march i was actually a commissioner from alaska who stepped up and said everything you've said was our exact experience and clearly we didn't learn how to engage in local affairs. i think the more you can do that the better. i think certainly that is a starting point but when the response happens, when the problem occurs at some point or another the local government has to be brought in and a better way than just sitting on the sidelines. that was a very difficult process for us to go through, seeing things up a new and we try to advocate and there are certainly things as i said i would know where to begin in either the pacific or the arctic in alaska but surely i know there are people who are your constituents that do know how to do that. i think some way or another they
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need to be engaged in the process certainly as i said in planning as well as coordination and communication and implementation. >> very good, thank you. jam, let me ask you that question in regards to clean water penalties and how to utilize them. i know that will be one of the big issues we deal with, how do we put that money to work? i think you heard senator rubio talk a little bit about how to monitor and you have indicated and others have indicated that. can you talk, just give me your thoughts. i know the legislation, one of the thoughts as to do in the 80/20 split and 20% set aside for other activities which could include arctic prep scientific and others but how would you see if there was an 80/20 split where that 20% could end up with regard to the rest of the oceans or waterways within the united states? >> you certainly.
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thank you mr. chairman. as we all know anytime we are discussing the distribution of funds these days, it is fraught with apparel. >> that is why i'm giving you the question. >> thank you is your chairman and i appreciated. >> i'm here to help. >> as in my. senator to certainly my view and the ocean conservancy strongly supports senator rockefeller's bill and the use of the clean water act penalties towards the 80% dedicated towards the gulf and certainly the idea of having a portion of that he used for the long-term monitoring observation and research is in my mind a tremendous step forward with regard to a true commitment to restoring the gulf of mexico. with guard to the balance of funds, i certainly wouldn't
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speak or heaven haven't for a long time but -- we see eye-to-eye on escort tug issues in alaska but with regard to the use of other funds that are going into the oil spill liability and trust fund, those funds are originating as a fee or a tax if you will. originally, each barrel of oil is taxed in that discussion came up and the state of alaska has eight per barrel fee. those are public resources and they are owned by the public and that discussion went on 20 some years ago. those funds, that fee per barrel is there for oil spill of various liabilities and is to be used as investments to deal with oil spill issues. the clean water act penalties are of course a penalty, unlike
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in my view, the oil spill per barrel tax, which i suggested an increase on earlier to be clear. but those dollars in my view are not to go into the oil spill liability trust fund but he used in fact for those areas and large marine ecosystems where the industry intends to go conduct offshore business. so with regard to your question specifically, my view is that 20% ought to be used in those areas where the industry is excited and proposing to do offshore business and that money ought to be used to in fact put in place the kind of infrastructure of monitoring observation and research that i'm talking about. if they are headed to the arctic my view is some funds -- it makes no sense to me at all to relieve the oil spill liability and trust fund tax because you
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are paying a penalty and remember there is a cap on the liability trust fund so if you put them in there that caps rate, you are actually giving money back so you want to write the oil company a check. by view is you want to invest those funds and if they are headed to the arctic we all know that we have a tremendous gap in monitoring observation and research and a tremendous gap in response according to noaa and the coast guard who was just here. >> let me ask you another quick question and mr. milito i will have two quick questions for you but jim last question. citizen advisory council for arctic has your organization taken a position on that? >> citizens advisory council for the arctic in my view and i am sure in my work with the ocean conservancy center and other people that have worked with the advisory committee have found it very helpful.
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they are awkward. is not easy to involve the public. is not easy to be transparent but certainly we support a citizens advisory committee. we think it is very important certainly we afford closely -- closely with them and they have to be on the table in the discussion with what is happening. >> mr. milito you heard me ask the question with regard to the enhanced relationship between noaa and omar and regards to positions and the process that will go forward in regards to oil and gas leasing and ocs. can you give me from an industry standpoint even though it is in a new process how has that been working or is it to new? what are your thoughts? >> at this point it is too new to form an opinion on it but i will say there have been opportunities and it is an option for engaging in in the process whether the five-year leasing plan they actually sell the permitting process so this
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formalizes it to some degree and i think it actually lays out the steps in which noaa will be able to insert itself in talking to the staff. even they believe it is too early to comment and provide an opinion on that. >> can you tell me and i will be very alaska centered care for second and regards the arctic and arctic development. can you give me from an industry standpoint how -- you have heard a lot of issues out there boast from -- both from independent individuals as well as organizations and the concern we have as we move forward and what kind of development may occur there. give me your two bits on how you see the industry responding to that which are different in a lot of ways from the goal. there are different environments, different depths and different rusher in the friday of other differences let alone the climate. can you give me some thoughts on the? >> we are all busy seeing a very
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tailored planning process for activities in the arctic. at this point we are looking at the shell model and shell is going out of its way to not only meet regulations but to go beyond the regulations in terms of having the vessels and personnel on-site in the event that there would be any type of a blowout type incident as well as having the actual measures in place for that arctic environment. the exploration plan in the permits associated with it in the spill response plans are very tailored and very robust for these purposes. i think we have seen a lot of holdups in the process, whether it is through permitting or through the epa, but it looks like we are getting past all of that in all those questions are being resolved so it is going to be a matter of looking forward to very a very select drilling that will occur and we are not talking about punching holes at multiple holes in the arctic environment. we are talking about very
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isolated numbers of wells that are being planned in a allowed to move those forward to just explore to see what is there. we are hopeful that this will move forward given the tremendous investment that rings and also the opportunity to maybe help shore up taps is an ongoing resource for the country and for a alaska. so there are jim and his benefits to it and we think we have a strong system in place based upon the tailored ways that these activities are being addressed. ..
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>> i don't know details about it, but recognizing and assume for this discussion, it is a significant issue of concern if there's a spill there, do you think that the industry would be pro-active in trying to figure out what kind of relationship, for example, i'll just use one example through my mind, for example, if there's a company doing offshore development in cuba, that they would allow u.s. inspectors to review those platforms and facilities for standards? throwing that out nonfor a definitive answer, but to be proactive rather than waiting for something to happen that to be frank if something goes wrong in cuba, comes to florida,
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there's a ripple effect to the industry throughout the country in a negative way. do you think there's a proactive opportunity here rather than waiting for something that could happen in the wrong direction? >> the industry looks at the operations internationally, and we've seen all the standards being created here, shared with those in europe and around the world and vice verse is a, and even -- vice versa, and even through the department of interior, there's forums put together, industry folks brought together to participate in those forums where all the regulators around the world get together to discuss this. the problem is very obviouslily that cuba's not at the table. we've seen interior reach out to mexico and have a dialogue with them. the industry supports trying to create consistency bunt it doesn't make sense one region to another operating and have different standards in place. there could be an opportunity
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there. i don't have an answer, but it makes sense given the companies operating in cuba, many operating in the gulf of mexico so there might be a good opportunity to try to make sure we have consistency and perhaps ways to make sure that the capabilities that the u.s. has in the gulf can be deployed to assist no those types of responses. >> would you mind discussing with your association maybe a formal response to that question that you can address to the committee and we'll share it with the senators from florida? the thought is what is the proactive role we should be taking from our end, but also the industry's end prior to those developments occurring that we will, you know, cuba will not come to the table. >> right. >> that's a guarantee at this point. what do we do to ensure that he we have the best standards even though maybe cuba doesn't have the standards, but how do we ensure the companies doing business there have the best
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standards and if there's an impact, we're prepared for it. is that acceptable to ask the organization to have a formal response for that? >> we'll go back and run that through. >> thank you. let me thank the panel in total. thank you very much. there's additional questions that members summited that you'll see. i hope you can respond to those. let me check with staff to see if i have to do anything official here. the record will be kept open for the next two weeks for additional questions to be submitted and responded to again. thank you, all, for participating. at this time, the committee is adjourned. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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>> coming up next on c-span2, the senate judiciary committee considers a repeal of the defense marriage act.
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>> in 1996, congress passed the defensive marriage act, a law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages. today, the senate judiciary committee considered a repeal of that law. witnesses at this hearing included activists for and against same-sex marriage. vermont democrat leahy shares this two and a half hour
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hearing. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> we thank you all for coming, and we, as you know, senator grassley is going to be a few minutes late. originally this was scheduled for beginning at ten o'clock, and his schedule is set school accordingly, but we moved it up 15 minutes to accommodate the statement from the three house members who are here. i want to welcome everyone to the first ever congressional hearing examining a bill to
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repeal the defensive marriage act. i call this hearing to assess the impact of doma and american families. i've heard from many vermont families concerned about this important civil rights issue, and earlier this year i was proud to join senator feinstein and others introducing s598, the respect of marriage act to repeal doma and restore the rights of all lawfully married couples. they deserve the same clarify, secureness as everybody else in this country enjoys. i made some points to our agenda. outside of the hearing room, often spoke for those who think the issue of civil rights is merely one for the history books. that's not so. there's still work to be done.
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the march for equality must continue until all individuals and families are respected equally under our laws. in the 15 years since doma was enacted, five states including vermont and district of columbia permitted marriage to same-sex couples. in just a few days, the state of new york will become the sixth state to protect same-sex marriage. unfortunately, the projection the statements provide to married couples are overridden by the operation of doma. i'm concerned they created a tear of second class family in states like vermont, and this runs counter to the values upon which america is founded, to the proud tradition we have in this country of moving towards a more inclusive society. now, next month, we'll celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary. our marriage is so fundamental
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to our lives, it's difficult to imagine how it would feel to have the government refuse to acknowledge it. the effect of doma goes well beyond harm of a family's dignity. the commitment of marriage leads us all to want to protect and provide for our families. as we'll hear today, this caused significant economic harm to some american families. the law made it difficult for some to stay together and for some family members to take care of one another during bad health and made it more difficult for the protective families after they die. i believe it's important that we encourage and sanction committed relationships. i also believe we need to keep our nation moving towards equality and forming more perfect unions. i'm proud to say that vermont led the nation in this regard. in 2000, we took a crucial step becoming the first state in the nation to allow civil unions for
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same-sex marriage. we went further by becoming the first state to adopt same-sex marriage through the legislative process. i've been inspired by the examples set by vermont. i've also been moved by the words of representative john lewis, my dear friend from the other body. my position evolved as states act to recognize same-sex marriage and applaud the president's move. the president understands the civil rights issue that affects thousands of american families. i want to support the refeel of doma because i don't want vermont spouses to experience a continuing hardship to result from doma's operation. they live in north vermont.
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they've been together in a committed relationship for over three decades, both serve the country they love in the navy, both work for the postal service. they moved to linda's parents to care for her mother living with al -- alzheimer's disease. this forced her too retirement and now she needs regular treatment. linda was denied family medical leave to provide for her family because doma does not recognize the marriage. just one example of unfair treatment to families because of doma. many other families reached out to share their experience. small business owners pay more in government taxes because they are not allowed to file like other married couples do. young couples are taxed when their employer provides health insurance to their spouse. working parents of teenage children and retirees with end
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of life care. these are powerful stories. there's stories, all of them will be part of hearing record. the marriage act allows all coupled married under state law to be afforded the same protections of any other married couple. nothing in this bill obligates any person, religious organization to perform a marriage between two people of the same sex. those prerogatives remain. what would change and must change is the federal government's treatment of state sanction marriages. it's time to recognize married couples deserve the same legal protections as afforded to opposite sex couples. i thank the witnesses who will be here today. i note those able to travel here remits a small fraction of americans impacted by doma, but
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it will be web casted so they can hear it. do you want to say anything? >> mr. chairman, i want to welcome all the good colleagues here. i appreciate all three of them, and i also will put my statement in the record. >> thank you, senator feinstein. you're the sponsor of this bill. would you like to say something? >> thank you very much. very briefly, mr. chairman. let me thank you for your leadership because you made this a historic day in holding the first hearing ever on this subject, so it is very special, and very historic. doma was wrong in 1996, and it is wrong today. 27 of my colleagues and myself have introduced the respect for marriage act. our bill is simple. it strigs doma from federal law. i'd like to make a few quick points. family law has been the preserve the state law. it therefore varies from state
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to state. marriage is the preserve of state law. divorce is the preserve of state law. adoption is the preserve of state law. inherents rights are the preserve the state law. the single exception is doma. chief justice wrote that family law "has been left to the states from time in memorial and not without good reason." he was right. my second point is that same sex couples live their lives like all married couples shares financial excepts, raise children together, care for each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health until death they do part, but doma denies these couples the rights and benefits to file joint federal income taxes, to claim certain deductions, to receive spousal benefits under social
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security, to take unpaid leave under the family and medical leave act, to obtain the protections of the estate tax when a spouse passes and wants to leave his or her possessions to another. i'd like to thank ron wallen from indio, california sweels the other witnesses today for coming before the committee, and i also want to thank the 16 californians who submitted statements for the record when, mr. mr. chairman, i ask to enter into the record. >> without objection. >> there's between 18,000 married same-sex couples in california. many impacted by doma could not come here to testify. let me give one example. jill johnson-young from riverside could not fulfill one of her wife's linda, wishes that
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they be buried together at at cemetery. that was not right. he leaves behind a husband and two children who now because of doma essentially lose rights that would have gone to a heterosexual couple. when the congress passed doma in 1996 denied rights by the federal government to legally married same-sex couples. this must change. that's what this is all about however long it takes, we will achieve it. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. our first witness is congressman john lewis. we know a civil rights legend, also a close personal friend. he's referred to as the conscious of the congress. today congressman lewis
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continues to be as he has throughout his life -- a powerful voice on matters of equality. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. chairman leahy, and other members of the senate, i thank you for inviting me to testify before this committee today. it is an honor to be here. i'm very happy to see the judiciary committee hold hearings to address the issue of marriage equality, but at the same time, mr. chairman, i must admit i find it unbelievable that in the year 2011 that there's still a need to hold hearings and debate further or not a human being should be ail to marry the one they love. now, i grew up in southern alabama. i'm from a little town called troy, but my entire childhood, i
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saw signs that said white restroom, colored restroom. colored waiting, white men, colored men. i tasted the bitter fruits of racism and discrimination, and i did not like it. in 1996 when congress passed the defensive marriage act, the taste of the old bitter fruit filled my mouth again. the act is a stap op our democracy. we must do away with this unjust discriminatory law once and for all. it reminds me of another dark time in our nation's history. in many years when state passed laws banning blacks and whites from marrying. we look back on that time now with disbelief, and one day we will look back on this period
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with the same sense of disbelief. when people used to ask dr. martin luther king, jr., he said racists do not fall in love and get married. individuals fall in love and get marrieded. marriage is a basic human right. no government, federal or state, should tell people they cannot be married. we should encourage people to love and not hate. human rights, women rights, these are issues of dignity. every human being walking this earth, man or woman, gay or straight, is entitled to the same rights. it is in keeping with the american premise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. these words mean as much now as they did at the signing of the declaration of independence. that is why congress must not only repeal the defense marriage
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act, be for marge equality for all citizens together with the privilege and benefit marriage provides. all across this nation, seam-sex couples are denied hospital visitation rights and denied equal rights and benefits and pension. because of the person they love happens to be the same sex. even in states where they have achieved marriage equality, these up just barriers remain all because of the defense of marge act. unfortunately, too many of us are comfortable sitting on the sidelines while the forecast -- federal government and state government trample on the rights of our brothers and sisters. as federal officials, we'll called to lead, be headlights and not a taillight.
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i applaud the work of congressman nadler and senator feinstein and applaud the committee for holding this hearing. i urge this committee, the senate as a body, and the united states house of representatives as a whole to pass the respect for marriage act as soon as possible. justice delayed is justice denied, and passing this bill is simple -- the right thing to do. more than just our constituents, these are our brothers and sisters. we cannot turn our backs on them. we must join hands and work together to create a more perfect union. when we are one people, one family, the american family, and we all live together in this one house, the american house. mr. chairman, i thank you again for inviting me to testify. >> thank you very much,
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congressman lewis, and we've been joined by senator grassley, and we have a congressman from his own state of iowa, congressman steve king, representing iowa's 5th congressional district, a member of the house agriculture, small business, and the judiciary committee of the house. the other judiciary committee, and congressman king, thank you for being here. go ahead, sir. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and i thank senator grassley for inviting me to testify. it's an honor and privilege to testify, and i testify in opposition to this and other efforts to repeal the defensive marriage act. the agent passed in 1996 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities and was signed into law by president clinton. this law defined marriage as a
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legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife and the words spouse refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. this law also clarified that states did not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. traditional marriage is a sacred institution and serves as the cornerstone of our society. we cannot afford to devalue it with legislation like this and must oppose efforts to diminish the definition of marriage. all of human experience points to one committed relationship between a map and a woman as the core building black -- block to society. it takes a man and woman to have children, and children are necessary for the next generation. we need to pass through to them the values of our civilization and family. the supreme court confirmed this in 1888 when they sated "marriage is the foundation of
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the family and of society without which there would be neither civilization nor progress." in 1942 the supreme court said "marriage and procreation are fundamental to the survival of the race." doma was passed in 1996 because congress and president clinton understood that civil society has an interest in maintaining and protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage bus it encourages responsible procreation and child rearing. now with today's legislation, you propose government does not have the same interest to protect marriage today as it did in 1996. the other side argues you can't choose who you love, and that a union between two men and women are equal to that of one man and one woman. these are the same arguments used to promote marriage between fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, or other polygamist
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acts. only a marriage between a male and female is valid. in 2009, the iowa supreme court issued a lawless decision, seven iowa supreme court justices decided to legislate from the bench, struck down iowa's doma law and read their opinion bringing the conclusion that these justices believe they have the authority to find the constitution, itself, unconstitutional. they even went so far as to say rights to same-sex marriage "were at one time unimagined." when iowans went to polls in 2010, they sent a message to the supreme court of iowa. they rejected the decision and historically ousted all three justices up for retention. it included chief justice marsha, never in the history of iowa had the voters ousted a
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single supreme court justice, let alone the three up for retention votes last november. every time the american people had the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage 31 out of 31 times, they confirmed marriage is and should remain the union between a husband and wife and 30 states have amendments to define marriage between one map and one woman and main pass initiative to overturn the seam-sex marriage bill. despite the will of the people, there's legislation like this before us today. we have the president saying that doma is unconstitutional despite no court reaching that conclusion. president obama's also directed the justice department to stop defending the constitutionality of this law. it's not the role of the executive branch to term what is or is not constitutional. it is the role of the executive branch to execute and uphold the laws congress passed. i know president obama supports the repeal of doma.
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it is his domain to take such a position, but contrary to the position, i think it is clear that the will of the american people to maintain, protect, and uphold the definition of marriage between one man and woman is there. this is good for families, society, and good for government. i would quickly add, mr. chairman, that a couple points about civil rights. the title vii of the civil rights act says protection for race, color, religion, sex, national origin, those except for the religion are immuneble characteristics. those that are immuneble should be injected to discussion and a marriage license is officered because there's a permit to do that. it's not a right to get married and that's why states regulate it by licensing. they want to encourage marriage. thank you, and i yield back. >> thank you very much, congressman king. congressman nadler is the author of the act and lead sponsor of the bill in the house. the lead sponsor uniting
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american families act. congressman, thank you for coming across the divide and joining us here. please go ahead, sir. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for holding the hearing and leadership on this issue. i thank senator fine stein for her leadership along with the chairman and our outstanding junior senator from new york. i'm thrilled to be here as the author and lead sponsor for the agent that supports 119 co-sponsors in the house. just yesterday, president obama announced his support if the bill and applaud his leadership on the issue as well. when congress passed doma in 1996, it was not possible for gay couples to marry anywhere in the world. 15 years later, much changed. six states include gay and lesbian couples in the laws. there's an estimating 80,000
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couples married legally in the country. as a result and the stereotypes have fallen away, public understanding of the issue shifted. while 75% opposeed gays marrying, when congress enacted doma, now the majority supports the marriage. most individuals under age 45 who identify as republican now support equal responsibilities and rights for gay and lesbian couples. recentlily republican and democratic lawmakers voted to include gay and please beians in the state marriage laws. this shift in understanding of opinion now makes clear what should have been apparent in 1996. the refusal to recognize legal marriages of citizens based on their sexual orientation is unjustifiable. time and experience eroded the
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legal and factual foundations used to support doma's passage and meaningful congressional examination of this law is long overdue. some of congress' reasons for doma have now been disenvowed. most notably the claim that congress can or should use the force of law to express moral disapproval. it is no longer credible that americans hold this view, and of course while once believed a reason for the law, it is now reason enough to declare it invalue i id. doma's support is still claiming that the law should survive and argue primarily it serves the interest of protecting the welfare of children by promoting a so-called optimum family structure, one that consists of a married opposite sex couple raising their bilogical chirp. there's no credible support for the notion that children are better off with opposite sex parents or gay and lesbian parents do not provide a
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wholesome environment. any legitimate interest of children demands couples receive advantages that flow from federal recognition of their parent's state marriages. no interest in the welfare of children ever advancedded by with holding protection by some children based on a desire to express moral disapproval of their parents. it defies common sense to claim it is necessary to harm or exclude the children of married or same-sex couples in order to protect the children. it's not accurate to claim congress' only interest in marriage is in its children. congress routinely has benefits based on marital status to promote the welfare and security of the adults. these interests are not possibly served by doma. while no federal interest is served by the law, doma unquestionably causes harm as welt hear today from the married
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gay and lesbian couples joining us today. they pay taxes, struggles blank work and family and raise children and care for aging parents. they took the pledge to care for and support each other and the families that civil marriage entails. they deserve equal treatment from the federal government. in fact, the constitution demands it, and the respect for marriage act provides it. the respect for marriage agent honors this nation. the bill does not define marriage, but up stead restores our prosecuting of respecting all state-sanctioned marriage for purposes of federal lawment up like doma, the respect for marriage act protects state's rights. each state now sets its own marriage law, and doma prevents the federal government from treating all state's marriages equally. this restores equal respect for the marriages of every state. the respect for marriage act honors the highest traditions of religion treatment.
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they differ with some religions opposing and others -- the respect for marriage act allows the diversity to flourish leaving every religion free to marry without government interference. i work with family law experts to ensure the federal government once again works cooperatively with the states to stabilize american families. i'm confident the bill strikes the right balance, and i look forward to working with all of you to ensure its passage, and i again thank you for the hearing. >> thank you congressman, and i know that the house has both debates and schedules. my intention there are no questions to allow our three house members to go back to the other body, and then i'd yield to senator grassley who did not have a chance to make the opening statement because we changed the schedule. i yield to him, but i thank all three of you for being here. i know how, especially this
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week, how hectic a schedule it is on both sides. i appreciate you taking the time to come here. thank you. senator grassley. >> mr. chairman, thank you for respecting my lateness of arrival. the bill before us today is entitled the respect for marriage act. george would have marveled at the name. a bill to restore marriage would restore marriage as it's been nope between one man and one woman. that's the view of marriage that i support. this bill would undermind, not restore marriage by repealing the defense of marge act. the defense of marriage act was enacted in 1996 and just think of the vote by which is passed the united states senate, 85-14. we don't often get votes of 85-14 in the united states on controversial pieces of legislation. unlike a bill in which one member of a party supports a
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partisan bill of the other party, which sometimes passes for bipartisanship around here, this was trily a bipartisan bill as evidence by the 85-14 vote. president clinton signed it into law and president obama ran on election platform of support for traditional marriage until yesterday. he was then a supporter of doma as well. one of the witnesses before us says doma was passed for one reason, "to express disapproval of gay and lesbian people." i know this to be false. senators at the time such as of such as bide p, coal, or you mr. chairman, and representatives at the time like representative schumer and durbin as they were members of the house at that time did not support doma to express disapproval of gay and lesbian people, and neither did i. marriage is an institution that
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serves the same public purpose over the world. to foster unions to result in procreation, creates incentives for husbands and wives to support each other and their children. it exists more to benefit children than adults although many marriages do not involve children. society's all over the world recognize numerous reasons to extend special recognition to traditional marriage. i never thought i would have to ever defend traditional marriage. it's been the foundations of societies for 6,000 years. not only here, but around the world, and it is what civilization's have been built on. support for traditional marriage cannot be viewed in the vacuum. over the last 50 years, marriage has changed very dramatically. perhaps the divorce laws, inherents laws, criminal laws at that time needed reform.
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like many members of congress, i believe in federalism. i did not support the rights of the state -- i do support the rights of states to make changes in marriage if they choose, but i also believe that a state that changes its definition of marriage should not be able to impose that change on sister states or the federal government. section ii of doma adds a statutory enhancement to state authority under the full faith and credit laws of article iv section i of the constitution to maintain their own deaf definitions of marriage. in addition, the same-sex couples are not the only couples who face the issues we're going to hear about today from our witnesses. unmarried heterosexual couples, siblings, friends who live together face the same problem, some of which can be addressed through other means than this particular legislation and
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legitimately so. i'd like to note one of the witnesses describes the serious threats made against ordinary citizens who exercised their first amendment rights when the state adopted same-sex marriage. the minority very much hoped to call a witness today at this hearing to testify in support of doma. i'm sure she would have done an excellent job. she declined however citing the threats and intimidation not only against her, but her family because of her support of doma. she'll continue to write on the subject, but no longer speak publicly. this chilling of the first amendment rights is unaccept l. there's good people of good faith on both sides of this question. they should seek to persuade each other through lomingic and factual evidence. they should not resort to threats of violence or seek
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silence on their opponents. i say the same thing for people who want to take bad action against people who are gay and less lesbian. doma is a constitutional law subject to attack. as one of today's witnesses shows, the department of justice has not performed its duties to take care that laws be faithfully executed during the course of litigation involving doma. the department recently argued in another case that the court should rely on unpassed bills in deciding the legality of government action. this is a ridiculous argument, one which courts never accepted. the rule of law requires rulings based on actual laws, not on policy preferences. the obama administration lost that argument in that other case called the lahal case, even though four judges agreed somehow they ought to make a
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decision on the fact that congress might pass a law opposed to what the law actually is. neither the administration or any judge to rely on passed bill s598 arguing or deciding that the constitutionality of doma, nor should the administration or any judge accept the argument that justice department made in the case that there is any legal significance to the mere introduction of a bill even if it is strongly supported by at administration nor should any judge be of the erroneous. that this coping will pass s598. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you. i note in the other case you're referring to we have treaty obligations that any time we enter a treaty it's the law of the land. >> that's the prep sigh of the law clause that i uphold.
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>> every time we had a citizen from our state as being held by authorities in other countries, we've argued that should have the right to have their -- somebody from our embassy speak to them and advise them of their rights, and, of course, in that case, the argument was if we ask other countries to do that for our citizens, they ought to have the same rights in ours, but in any event, the staff changedded the names on here, and we'll call up the next panel. call up ron wallen, thomas minnery, andrew sorbo, and susan murray. before we start, i will hear the
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testimony from each of them, and then we'll open it up to questions. i should also note the audience, snort who is in the audience. she is as a couple of the witnesses already noted, she's a strong supporting of this legislation and has worked with us and worked very hard for its passage. glad to have you hear, senator. the first witness we'll hear from is ron wallen, a resident of indio, california, married tom, his partner of 55 years in june of 2008. mr. wallen, please go ahead, sir. i should note for all witnesses, your whole statement will be placed in the record, and wops
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you have the transscript, you get a copy of the transcript, and if you find -- i should have added this line or that line, you'll have a chance to do that. we want a complete as record as we have, but please go ahead, mr. wallen. >> i thank the chairman and members of the senate judiciary committee for inviting me to testify at this important hearing today. i want to especially thank my senators, senator feinstein for introducing the respect for marriage act. i'm honored and appreciate the opportunity to tell my story. i'm ron wallen, 77 years old, and i live in california. four months ago, tom, my husband and partner of 58 years, died of leukemia. tom and i first met back in 1953 when tom was 23 and i was 19,
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and from the first day, we enjoyed a sense of togetherness that never weakened in both good times and bad. tom suffered a heart attack in 1998. we changed our lives that resulted in diminished income for us both, and for the next 33 years or very ordinary life was spent together surrounded by friends and family until tom's last illness. on june 24, 2008, we were among the lucky couples to stand before family and friends to marry the one person we loved above all others. it was a day of pure joy. as engrained our love was, we were surprised by the amount of emotion came to us that came. maiming after 55 years together, the two of us were blubbering on our wedding day, but even on the day we vowed sixness and in
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health, we faced the worse because tom was diagnosed with leukemia. tom's illness was four years of pure hell with more hospitalizations than i can count user both hands and feet. not a month went by i didn't ruer him in the emergency room, but we were in it together. tom didn't have leukemia, we had leukemia. as rotten as the four years were, they were easier because we had each other for comfort, love, and because we were married. since tom died on march 8, i miss him terribly, and beyond the emptiness caused by the loss of the map i spent my entire adult life with, my life is in financial turmoil because of doma. like a lot of retirees, we took a big hit in the stock market these past few years, but between tom's social security benefits, his fall private pension, and my social security
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check, we had a combined steady monthly income of $3,050. the rest of the expenses were from our diminished investments, not a lot, but enough. as you know for married couples in the country, social security allows a widow to claim their own benefit or the benefit amount of their spouse, whatever is highest. that survivor's benefit allows the widow to stay in their home at a very difficult time, but doma says that gay and lesbian married couples cannot get that treatment. therefore, my reliable income went down to $900 a month. the mortgage on my home is $2,000. you don't have to be an accountant to see from the day tom passed, i had to worry about how to pay that mortgage. that benefit would have done for me what it does for every other
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surviving spouse in america, ease the pain of loss, help during a difficult transition, and allow time to make decisions and plan for my future alone, yet i cannot depend on this benefit after 50 years with my spouse simply because of doma. this is unfair. this is unjust. many widowers downsize and make adjustments after the loss of their spouse. downsizing is one thing, but panic sale of o home that's underwater is another. after a lifetime of being a productive system, i'm facing financial chaos. we played by the rules. we served our country, paid taxes, volunteered, main taped our home, got married soops we were legally able to do so, and yet as i face a future without my spouse, it is hard to accept that it is the federal government that is throwing me out of my own home. you can fix this problem by refeeling doma. it's a discriminatory law
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against gay couples who assumed the responsibilities of marriage. we ask to be treated fairly like other loving and committed married couples. i beg you to repeal the law and allow other married couples the same protections. thank you for allowing me to testify today, and i'll be happy to answer questions you may have. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman wallen. the next witness is thomas minnery, senior vice president focus on the family and the lobbying affiliates citizen link, and mr. minnery reminded me that years and years and years and years and years ago when we were both younger, he actually covered me for one of the newspapers in vermont. go ahead, mr. minnery. >> thank you -- [inaudible] >> is your microphone on? the little -- >> it is now, thank you. mr. wallen, my heart goes out to
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you. our organization is large and we do a lot of counseling to families to help them thrive in a difficult society. we have resources for couples to build healthy marriages that reflect god's design and for parents to raise their children according to morals grounded in principles. we have 13 international offices, radio programs broadcast in 26 languages to more than 230 million people around the world each day. we have resources, and i believe they can help you even in your situation, and if you'd permit us, we'd like to be helpful to you. mr. chairman and members of the committee, i believe i represent two groups of people not invited here today to testify. the first group of people are those many voters who have endorsed the traditional definition of marriage. typically, these votes pass with overwhelming majorities an
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average of 67% majority in each of the 31 states where voters had a chance to register their. s about it. additionally 15 more states have passed some sort of statute bringing the total to 44 states that decided in one form or another usually by large overwhelming majorities that marriage is between one man and one woman. one of the bills most serious impacts, the bill we are discussing today has been largely ignored. it's the repeal of section ii of doma. that is the section that protects states from being forced to recognize out of state same-sex marriages. the bill's revocation of section ii is an attempt to undermine the public policy's laws and constitutions of the vast majority of states for whom traditional marriage is a settled issue. the only possible reason for doing so is to place the issue
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of marriage once again into the hands of judges and to take the issue of marriage out of the hands of people who have already spoken so clearly in so many states. should doma be repealed? parents this those states which have registered their approval of traditional marriages would be faced with the problems of coping with marriages of which they overwhelmingly disapprove. we need look no further than massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage to understand what i'm talking about. it's this forced political correctness that brooke snow, diversity of opinion, that's the problem here. national public radio featured an interview with a massachusetts 8th agreed teacher, deb alan, who was excited about her freedom to does homo sexual behavior.
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if someone wants to challenge me, give me a break, it's legal now. the npr reporter explained that the teacher now discusses gay sex with students tore rowly and explicitly with a chart in the 8th grade. i feel like i'm representing parents who have not been invited to speak who have a seriously held religious view that marriage is between one man and woman and they want to protect their young children against other views. robin in 2006 had their 7-year-old son joey come home to tell about a book the teacher read to the 1st grade class on same-sex relationships. they thought he was mistaken at first. the request the school inform them about such presentations, and they were turned down. another couple, david and tonya parker had a worse result when questioning the teaching of the
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same-sex issues to their young son. mr. parker found himself in jail. i'm trying to be a good dad parker said after the arrangement. they were christians attempting to follow their faith. we're not intoller rapt said his wife. we love all people. that's part of our faith, but see the judge ruled in that case, the case of the parkers and they had this to say. the sooner children are exposed to those topics of same-sex relationships, the better it is. it is difficult to change attitudes and stereotypes after they have developed. excuse me? attitudes and stereotypes? these are sincerely held religious views of their parents and the judge takes upon himself to believe that these views sincerely held should be erased from the minds of the children. mr. chairman, that's my opening statementment i'd be pleased to
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take questions. >> well, thank you very much, and it's good to see you again, and our next witness is andrew sorbo, resident of berlin -- how do you pronounce that? >> [inaudible] >> same way we do in vermont. we have a berlin in vermont. they shared a life for nearly 30 years, joined in a civil union in vermont in 2004, back when vermont had civil unions before they had same-sex marriage and legally married in connecticut in 2009. please go ahead, sir. >> thank you, senator leahy, senator feinstein for inviting me to testify before this committee. my i'm is andrew sorbo. i am 64 years old, and a
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resident of connecticut. i spent 35 years as a teacher and principal in the catholic and public schools of rhode island and connecticut before retiring in 2005. i'm here today to talk about how i have been hurt by the defense of marge act after i lost my partner of nearly 30 years. the love of my life and my legal spouse, dr. colin aterberry, the chief of staff at the west haven veteran's administration medical center. as a young man at 23, i mistakenly married, divorced and expected to spend nights alone in quiet december per ration. to my surprise in 1979 on a visit to new york city, i met colin. from our first conversation, we knew that we had found our soul mates and our partners for life. although we never expected it to happen in our lifetime, we had
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the opportunity to legalize our relationship with a civil and holy union in vermont on the occasion of our 25th anniversary. a year later, i retired and shortly after wards, colin was diagnosed with cancer. he battled the carps with courage, and i nursed him with a strength i was not aware i possessed. in january of 2009, we were married by two minister friends in a subdued ceremony in the living room of our home in connecticut. colin died four months later just shy of our 30th anniversary. even though we did everything we could to legalize our relationship and protect ourselves financially, doma hung over us like a dark cloud. the financial impact due to doma came swiftly after colin's death. his federal pension checks stopped, so our household income declined by 80%. doma did not allow colin the
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same legal right which my own brother-in-law possessed when he retired, that is the opportunity to accept a smaller monthly pension to allow his spouse, my sister, to inherent his pension and maintain her financial security in the slft event of his death. i had to sell our house and downsize to a condo leaving our home of 18 years is a moment i'll never forget. colin was denied the right to include me on his medical insurance plan. i had to pay for my insurance coverage in full at a higher rate than as a spouse. last year, my insurance pams consumed one-third of my $24,000 teacher pension. in addition, doma forced my financial mapper to create a retirement plan much less advantageous to me than if i had been colin's female spouse. another consequence of doma unlike my mother when my
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stepfather die, i was unable to inherit my spouse's social security benefits. doma interfered with our ability to file joint tax returns. that process is prohibitively complex for same-sex spouses. after our union in 2004, we were not allowed to file joint federal income tax returns, a situation that my sister and her husband never faced. after colin died, i was forced to file a separate federal return for him and separating finances at that point was exceedingly difficult. the damage that doma inflicts every day on the lives of decent americans is not only financial, but also psychological as well. the toll on our belief in the justice and fairness of our society is incall cue lable. colin would implore you to remove this insult to our
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dignity and respect us as much as you do other countrymen and ask to restore the economic justice doma denies us and would remind you we are your brothers and your sisters, your aunts and your uncles, your cousins and your friends, your work mates and neighbors, your sons and your daughters, and, yes, even sometimes your moms and your dads, and then colin, the doctor who was a philosopher, would stop to say because he was a thoughtful map. he would lower his voice, look every one of you in the eye before saying, everybody deserves equal treatment. thank you, senators, for allowing me to testify today. ..
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>> thank you chairman leahy and thank you senator grassley and the other members of the committee. for allowing me to testify here today. i am the oldest of seven children from a good catholic family and i had a great childhood. my mom and dad were completely devoted to us kids, but they were also devoted to each other. they were happily married for 51 years before my dad died six years ago. sorry.
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so that was my model of a successful marriage. that is what i wanted for myself. when i realized as a young adult that i was gay, i didn't think i would ever have the opportunity to have that same kind of life that my parents had. and then i met karen hibbert and i consider myself blessed to have found the person that i wanted to be with for the rest of my life. we have been together for more than 25 years now, and as soon as the state of vermont legislature said we could, we got married. we promise to continue to love one another and to be with each other through thick and thin for the rest of our lives. by now our lives were completely intertwined both financially and otherwise but we still can't file joint federal tax returns. and that means we have to pay more in taxes. there was a time a few years ago when i was very sick and i was
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in the hospital for four days. karen stayed with me everyday and every day and every night until i got better. luckily i had health insurance through karen's work so that helps pay the medical bills. lech, unlike other married co-workers that she worked with, karen had to pay tax on the value of that health insurance coverage for me. that is about $6200 a senators when we met, karen had blonde hair and i had black hair and now we both have gray hair. as we get older we are starting to worry about the financial difficulties that we may face because the social security laws to provide us full benefits of other couples. all of these things large and small, they add up over time and it it is like waves hitting sand on a beach over and over. it has the effect of eroding our
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financial security. it is something that, trying to erode things that we have else up and worked so hard to build up over time. as senator leahy pointed out i'm a lawyer by profession and i do a lot of estate planning work. in that role, i have seen first-hand the ways in which the lack of federal protection hurts same-sex families and the children they are raising so i would just like to give you two examples here today. i once represented a woman named carrie, blue-collar work who -- who worked in a big-box store. she and her partner aron really struggle to support themselves and aron's two children that aron had from a prior marriage. at one point terry went to her employer and try to get health insurance for aron and aron's two children. the company specifically told her that the federal government did not require them to ensure
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their employees same-sex partners or spouses or those spouses of the children so they aren't going to do it. so for this family the lack of health insurance really was very scary for them. they were essentially one illness away from financial ruin. the last case i will tell you about was really a tragedy. my client cheryl and sheryl and her partner, jane, they were the new parents of an 8-year-old loy and they were totally in love with that little baby. they had so many hopes and dreams together for raising that child. they agreed that sheryl would stay home and be a full-time stay-at-home mom to take care of the baby in jane would go to work to earn money for the family. she had a modest job and made a modern -- modest income. they are little house and they were making ends meet. then one morning on her way to work, jane was killed in a car accident. instantly, all of that family's income was gone.
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cheryl didn't even get the basic care and social security benefits that jane had paid for through her contribution to the social security tax. that a sick federal safety net wasn't there for cheryl and their little baby. for me the lawyer it was heartbreaking to deal with that to see that baby and try to help sheryl deal with her grief and with this financial devastation. she ended up losing the house. we couldn't keep it for her. fees are just two examples of the harm that same-sex couples have faced and will face if it is to remain the loveland. i really hope you will get rid of this unfair law. thank you. >> thank you very much and i want to go to our questions. you know as a member of the vermont bar and member of the legal community, i have been very familiar with your advocacy
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and the fight for equality, but this is the first time i have heard your arsenal story and what you said about your parents and how their marriage was an example to you. i can certainly relate to that and my own parents. but, you also were in vermont when we had first the civil union that the legislature passed and that was a major debate in our state. then subsequently a few years later when the vermont legislature and the elected members voted, debated and passed the same-sex marriage which actually was far less --
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it brought a lot of controversy from the right to the left. why was it important to you to get married but just have a civil union? >> it is a great question senator. civil unions were created whole cloth by the state of vermont and no other state to borrow that phrase now. was brand-new back then and it is different. people didn't know what it was. when we had a civil union ceremony we had a big party and some of the people we invited didn't know what we were inviting them to. they didn't understand it. but marriage is universal. everybody understands it. everybody in this country and everybody in this world. everybody knows what the marriage vows are, that you take will someone for better or worse, for richer or poorer in sickness and health in until death do you part. everybody knows that. the childhood that i had in the
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model i had for my parents cause me to believe in marriage and i believe in its power to bind people and its power to, its importance to society and i wanted to declare that publicly. we wanted to declare that publicly for her friends, and their families so they would be there to support us and so they understood we were part of that world. >> let me ask you. we have had a number of witnesses who have had and we will have more who have opposed the marriage act. some say they want to fight poverty by keeping american families intact and i talk about the problem of the single parent households. it is rare that the federal court and supreme court said 40
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years ago and loving versus virginia when unanimously they struck down miscegenation laws, but i think we can say that our federal government has had an interest in protecting children. marriage provides more stable and financially secure homes for children. do you see any way that doma is offering to keep families more intact and protected or the other way around? >> just the opposite, senator. let me give you an example. karen and i have friends who live in new york outside of albany. a gay male couple. they have adopted three special needs kids including one who's got aids because his mother was an intravenous drug user. they have had so many difficulties raising the children. they have had really trying times but they have done a fabulous job raising these kids. to the extent doma undermines
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their ability to take care of these children and provide these children with the care and support that they need to the extent that they can't file joint tax returns and that increases their tax burden. that is money that these parents can't buy and can't use to buy books for those kids and they can spend it on tudors. they can't spend it on summer camp. they can even put money away for the kids college educations. so i think we can all agree in this room that children are this country's most precious resource. they are our future and the kids of same-sex couples deserve exactly the same protections and benefits and that sense of security that every other child in this country deserves and they're not getting it with doma. >> thank you. mr. minnery earlier this year the conservative political action conference in d.c., you made the statement and i believe i'm quoting you correct way.
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we believe we fight poverty every day in the most effective way property can be fought by keeping families intact. your report, the value of marriage fighting poverty can reduce child poverty in a single parent households in our nation's. you suggest marriage has left a significant amount of adults out of poverty. i think we all agree that marriage provides a more stable and financially secure home and families for children. but, does that come through if we are denying some parents or rights and benefits that have made the families healthy and more secure? >> thank you for the question mr. chairman. we all, we the people care about
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marriage, care about what it is because it is the nurturing environment for children and a mountain of social science data that is included overwhelmingly the best environment for raising those children if possible. in the intact home headed by a married father and mother. in fact, i've i have put in my prepared statement. >> up my specific question though, if you do have parents, legally married, and they are same-sex and they are children, are those children benefited by saying that in that family, they will not have the same financial benefits that another family, married parents of opposite sex would have? are those children -- are those
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children not put at a disadvantage by denying those same benefits and i'm talking about now a legal marriage under the state laws of the state they live in. >> no. that question is children are certainly better off. >> wait a minute. i don't understand that. they would be better off if they had no parents. >> they are certainly better off than if they had no home headed by parents. but same-sex marriage as a whole lot more than that, senator. >> i know but i'm trying to go specifically to the financial. are they not disadvantaged by not having the same financial benefits that the opposite sex family would have? >> as i say said not knowing the details, which families you are speaking of, certainly those
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families are better off, children are better off with parents in the home. >> but i'm talking about -- yes or no. this is not a trick question. i'm just asking if you please, if you have parents legally married under the laws of the state, one set of parents are entitled to certain financial benefits for their children. the other set of parents are denied the same financial benefits for their children. are not those children at least in that aspect of finances, are not those children the second family? are they not at a disadvantage? yes or no? >> it would be yes and as you asked the question earlier, senator. >> thank you and i was asking it earlier.
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i used to have a career where i had to ask questions all the time. senator grassley. >> mr. minnery the testimony we have heard appears to me to turn on the operation of section 3 of doma which defines marriage for the purpose of that rolloff. doma also contains section 2 which as you mentioned preserves federalism by allowing each state to define marriage for itself without imposing it definition on other states. the bill before us would repeal section 2 of doma as well as section 3. does section 2 of doma have anything to do with the loss of benefits that the witnesses have discussed? >> doma was in place well before the couples at the table were married.
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so their there are situations senator has not changed. it is the same. that is why i question the advice that mr. wallen spoke about when he talked about legal advice given to him about how to survive. it seems as though the legal advice he was talking about a senbet doma would he repealed that it seems to me that the legal advice of a compounded by sderot to understand the situation that exists. nothing has changed since doma passed for these couples. >> section 2 of doma has nothing to do with anybody's benefit. what would be the benefit of repealing section 2 in what justification to proponents after pitting doma offering for repealing section 2? >> well, section 2 is that
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section of doma which excuses states from being required to recognize same-sex marriage performed in other states. these are the states that have overwhelmingly determined what marriage is for the citizens of that state. overwhelmingly they have voted for that. and it if doma were to be repealed, presumably same-sex marriages performed elsewhere would have to be recognized in those states, those many states that have determined that marriage is what it has always been. with that comes very forced political correct this which can get downright nasty. in my prepared comments, i speak about a case in washington state
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in which voters had gone to the polls to try and repeal a civil union measure and they put that on the ballot by the initiative process. many of the names of those petition signers were released, and the threats and the intimidation against them were horrendous and they found their way into a brief filed in federal court on behalf of those parents. most of those comments against the petition signers i cannot report here. they are too vile. >> can i go on to another question please? mr. minnery your testimony today that social science research shows that the well-being of children raised with same-sex marriages is the same is children who were raised in traditional marriages. is that your understanding of the research?
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is there anything questionable about the studies that show that children are just as healthy and well-adjusted when raised by same-sex parents? >> yes, in my written statement goes into that in some detail, senator. i appreciate the question. as i started to say before an overwhelming mountain of evidence shows that children do best when they have a mom and a dad. the studies that have analyzed same-sex households are very recent. the conclusions tend to be ambiguous. the sample sizes tend to be small and they tend to be what social scientists call snowball samples. that is to say they are not random samples for inclusion in the study. there are people who have been recruited to be in the study, for example answering ads in the same-sex publication, bookstoree
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same-sex couples frequent. that is the way most of them have been included in the studies and that is not as legitimate as a scientifically random sample and those samples are much better in those studies which are longitudinal and which show a mother and a father provide the best environment for those children. >> thank you. >> thank you. i yield to senator feinstein. i have to step out for four or five minutes to give her the devil during that time and senator whitehouse will be recognized after us as a member of the republican side. >> i'm going to step out for a minute but i will be right back. >> thank you. senator feinstein. >> thank you very much mr. feinstein -- chairman.
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i just want to establish some things for the record. in 1997, the supreme court said in a quote, the whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the laws of the state and not to the laws of the united states end quote. nothing in this bill would obligate any state, religious organization or locality to perform a marriage between two people of the same-sex. nor would anything in this bill requires state to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state. doma has never been necessary to preserve states rights, because the state does not have to recognize a marriage filing its public policy. so, i think that is pretty clear.
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i think one of the big discrepancies here is in the area of health coverage. many americans get health coverage to their employers and they use those plans to cover families including their spouses. these plans are usually free from tax so with a business pays $2000 in health premiums for an employee and a spouse, the employee does not have to pay income taxes on that and if it. doma removes the tax protection for same-sex couples. under doma the employee will have to pay taxes on premiums paid to his or her spouses health coverage. plus, the employee has to pay any employee contribution after taxes rather than before taxes, like any other married couple. this is how doma discriminates. so that means that same-sex
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couples are subject to thousands of dollars in additional taxes because of doma. susan, you are an attorney. would you like to comment on that? >> you are absolutely right. i experienced that in my own life and i have seen it with many of my friends and for some of my clients to the extent people can actually get health insurance benefits. some of them can't detest the companies think that the federal government allows them to discriminate and therefore, they are able to do that. so if they can get access to health insurance they still have to pay more money on it. >> in the area of gibbs tax, state tax and divorce, and let me talk about the gift tax for a moment. you know, many americans are generous with their spouses. they give them a piece of jewelry or expensive electronic
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item. they buy a vacation for a spouse under federal law, these gifts are not taxed for married couples except for same-sex couples because of doma. i have a constituent from piedmont, california by the name of max kalin. he recently suffered from this aspect when his husband philip passed away from an aggressive form of cancer. philip's a state with tax to the tune of $2 million because of doma. could you comment on this issue of the gift and inheritance tax? >> i would be happy to, senator. i see this all the time in my practice. i can tell you the story of a young couple named jessica and i lean who came to see me recently. jessica was lucky enough to have inherited some money, a significant amount of money from her parents but her partner eileen, her spouse, her wife eileen had no money at all.
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they had two goals. one was to provide financial protections to eileen to give her some assets to protect her in the events jessica passed away and to prepare for all the ups and downs of life as they move forward and got older. and the other was to try to minimize their federal estate tax just like any other married couple that comes into my office. now, if they were a married couple that was recognized by the federal government that would have been a very easy straightforward estate plan for me to draft but as of doma there are no -- i can't simply have jessica transfer assets into eileen's name because anything over right now $13,000 a year triggers gift tax. >> thank you. obviously i'm trying to fill the record here. let me speak about veterans benefits. "don't ask don't tell" has been repealed so gay serviceman will soon be able to put their lives on the line in service to our country in the military and they
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received a number of benefits on the account of their service to our nation. for example is if a veteran dies a surviving spouse will receive death benefits. is a veteran dies from disability related to his service, the surviving spouse can receive benefits. a veteran spouse can also be buried with her deceased spouse in a military cemetery. under doma, the spouse of gay servicemembers would be excluded from these benefits. even though those servicemembers performed exactly the same service to our country and put their lives on the line for the united states. my question is for any witness that would care to answer. can you please comment on the extent that you know on the likely impact of doma on gay servicemembers and their spouses? >> senator i can tell you
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briefly from a non-gay case that i just had. i do divorce broken i just represented a woman who is divorcing her husband who is active in the military. and she is entitled to 55% of his pension. he is about ready to retire after 20 years in the military. she is divorcing him and she's getting 55% of his military pension. a niece same-sex -- same-sex couple will not have access to that. >> i thank you i thank you all of you for being here today. is very important and i'm very grateful. senator whitehouse. >> thank you madam chair and thank you for your leadership on this issue. i will gladly yield. okay. this discussion we are having is so often a clash between ideology and just human stories that what i would like to do is take my time and echo the testimony of ron and andrew and
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susan with some stories from rhode island. david and rock wrote to me from providence. we now both have active and busy careers and a teenager thinking about college, the financial challenges of college tuition and shrinking retirement assets. we are involved with her church and have the concerns of most families. effectively were a heterosexual couple hours would be the story of the conservative american family. the importance of education, the importance of faith and delaying marriage until financially stable, and marriage followed by a shared household followed by childrearing. and then there is doma. we carry our marriage documents, adoption documents and medical care proxy documents when we travel. i am ineligible for inclusion in military family benefits. we are not eligible to file joint income tax. we are ineligible for spousal social security benefits to the
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event of the death of one of us. it is time to end this discriminatory policy. carol and ann right we have been together since 1987 and have had 20 foster children. for 30 years i have worked at the same company and pay taxes and in been a model citizens for 23 years and taking care of children in need. one high school we were known as the ladies. educators heaved a sigh of relief when they knew a tough child had us as their foster parents. with kindness and patience and compassion our efforts have made great changes and 20 young lives. we are doing our best to make this a better world. please pass the respect for marriage act to reverse doma. we want to feel the stellar foster children we are married 100%. bill and ernie wright, we live in her berlin rhode island and we than a couple for over 20 years. we live quietly and go about our business without altering any one. i was born 59 years ago and
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ernie was born 55 years ago. we been citizens of the united states all our lives and since the passage of doma government has taken right away from us. why is this? we have not heard anyone. it makes no sense to set up outside protections of federal law to make us less than full citizens of the united states. please ask your colleagues in the senate to support the return of our civil rights. it is the only civil thing to do. finally a story in the providence journal about pat aker and deborah. pact is -- has been a public service for a long time. she's a 51-year-old correctional officer. it says here she was never a activists but after a doctor diagnosed her with incurable lung cancer in december she got an added jolt. the federal defense of marriage act precludes her from collecting the social security benefits for a surviving spouse.
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the story continues, the discovery stunned acre leading to embark on what may well be your first and last active rave rate in the name of marriage equality. the story concludes they are not entitled to the full scope or protections with regard to end-of-life issues, disposition of remains, who is considered next of kin, who gets to make decisions on medical care, organ donations and more. noting the couple is spent thousands of extra dollars trying to put in place the protections, she said i hope it is a reminder to the legislators that this is not abstract. this is a really tragic illustration of how these vulnerable situations are made so much more difficult because the same-sex couples are not treated like everybody else. i could not improve on those comments from rhode island couples and i:everyone for their attention and the or were too working particularly with senator feinstein on passage of
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her bill. again i want to recognize her leadership and i want to recognize the leadership of our chairman. there have been many occasions when this hearing room has been made the fulcrum of this process. this is another such occasion i want to wreck my thumb for that. >> thank you very much senator whitehouse and i think we have all been fortunate with the leadership you have shown here. senator franken, you are next. please go ahead, sir. >> i begrudgingly yield to senator durbin. >> thank you mr. chairman and i want to especially thank the witnesses who have shared their personal stories with us and what you are doing here is very important. not just for the millions of americans directly affected lies so-called defense of marriage
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act but for our entire nation. doma is an injustice and immoral and discriminatory laws. our nation was founded on the premise that all people are created equal. and all persons should receive equal treatment under the law. our society may be different than it was then, but these principles remain the same. that is why i am an original co-sponsor of the respect for marriage act and that is why i think the day we repealed doma be a great day in this nation akin to the ratification of of the 19th amendment and the passage of the civil rights act. i think congressman lewis' presents here spoke to that in a very powerful way. mr. chairman i would like to enter the rest of my statement, opening statement, into the record. mr. minnery on page eight of your written testimony right quote, children living in their
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own married biological or adopted mothers -- with their own married biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier and have better access to health care, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never lived in poverty compared with children and any other family form. you cite a department of health and human services study that i have right here from december 2010 to support this conclusion. i checked the study out. [laughter] and i would like to enter into the record if i may. >> without objection, so ordered. >> actually doesn't say what you
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said it does. it says that nuclear families, not opposite sex married families are associated with those positive outcomes. isn't it true mr. minnery, that a married same-sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite? >> i would think that the study this study when it cites nuclear families would mean a family headed by a husband and a wife. >> it doesn't. [laughter] >> the the study defines a nuclear family as one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each virological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family. and i frankly don't really know
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how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways. ms. murray? i recently read about a minnesota same-sex couple with two daughters. the working daughter and -- but they couldn't afford to cover the nonworking partner who is named shannon because every contribution they or their employer made to shannon's coverage would be fully taxable under federal law. now, shannon and her partner can't get married in minnesota but even if they could, doma would mean that their situation would remain the same. according to one estimate excess of doma same-sex couples pay
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$1069 more annually for health coverage than opposite sex employees. as senator feinstein mentioned, he would have had to go through this. can you tell us how same-sex couples end up paying for or coping with these disparities? >> senator, a lot of them simply don't get health insurance and they end up in the emergency room. my partner is a physician assistant who works in an emergency room in burlington vermont and she sees these couples coming and when they can afford insurance. so our system is paying for at least on an emergent basis paying for these folks health care. anything their kids are getting, if their kids are not covered they are not getting regular check-ups nor are the partners. so that is a huge problem that we have on a long-term basis in terms of health care. >> thank you very much and thank you to all the witnesses.
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mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. using our usual earlybird rural senator. >> almost all of them. >> senator coons is next. senator coons. >> thank you chairman leahy. thank you to you and senator feinstein for your long and determined work on repealing doma. thank you to the members of our panel today who have shared with us searing personal stories of their experience as veterans, teachers and attorneys. they represent i know thousands of our constituents, colleagues and classmates and friends who have gone through similar suffering and mistreatment through doma. the purpose of today's hearing is to look at senate bill 598 and to consider the impact doma has had on legally married couples who have been denied access to all sorts of different federal programs and benefits and privileges. as ms. murray mentioned they are like waves on a beach that just
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drive away the possibility of the quality, even to those legally recognize couples. to me this hearing is fundamentally about equality and whether or not we as a nation think it is okay to deny some american citizens the same rights and privileges afforded to other citizens. do we really think it is okay for our federal government to say we simply don't like who you love. my question here is how we can have an answer that is anything other than emphatically no. equality for all his supposed to mean in my view a quality for all and i don't see what business it is of our federal government to reach into americans hearts and judge them for whom they love particularly when their state has empowered them to marry. i am tired of it being the law that it is okay for the government to discriminate against americans solely raised on gender identity or sexual orientation. i'm tired of seeing kids grow up in a country where government health and discrimination is
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okay and and i think it is no wonder we continues to see kids being bullied in school and so many lgbt children take their own lives because they have given up hope because in my view this simply encourages discrimination. i think we have bigger problems in the country than going out or ways to continue to discriminate against and deny rights to americans. it for today some of these witnesses have movingly testified about how same-sex marriage is at real harm from doma. in my view, others have testified here and elsewhere about how somehow same-sex marriage threatens or hurts heterosexual marriage. i don't know about my colleagues but my wedding ring in my marriage do not magically dissolve or disappear just because new york passed a same-sex marriage bill last month. in my view that is about storing rights. it is not about taking them away. it is about writing these wrongs are moving on. i am a person of faith. by family and i worship
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regularly and i'm raising children in what might be considered a traditional marriage. but i don't think that my faith which informs my politics empowers me to have a monopoly on the interpretation of the will of god. and in my view, it is expressly not appropriate for the federal government to discriminate against couples based on who they love. in my view the defense of marriage act is just wrong. it is wrong and needs to be repealed. i'm grateful to the chairman into the witnesses before us for having laid out in clear, compelling ways how doma has harmed them directly. i would be grateful if i could take a moment to ask some of the witnesses about the symbolic harm that doma has also imposed on you because you have spoken in compelling ways about financial loss. losses of home, loss of health benefits, loss of respect that i would be interested in hearing
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if i could further about the symbolic power of doma in your lives to any of the three witnesses, ron, andrew or susan who have testified. >> senator, i'm glad to be able to respond to that. i was a teacher and principal as i told you for 35 years. every day of my career, i led my students in the pledge of allegiance, and that pledge of allegiance ends with liberty and justice for all. for 35 years, every day, when it came to those words, i stood in front of my students with a blank face, but inside i knew it was not true. i knew as a history teacher that it had not been true for laxative had not been true for
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women and it had not been true for mixed race couples, and i knew that it was not true than for same gender couples. and i had to stand before them and say that. and i also had every day of my car rear until the very and when i finally got the courage to admit who i was to always use the pronoun i to my students when they asked me questions that probe probed into my personal life. i was going on vacation. i did this. i could not say we because the next question was, well who was the other person? and i knew that would lead to lots of tall blondes. so it is a good question senator because the financial aspect of this is only one aspect of the harm that doma does in the discrimination against gay
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people. it is an insult to our dignity and our sense as i said in my testimony, our sense of the quality. i grew up in a normal household. my father died when i was a year old. but normal and that my mother, my sister and i had a loving home and my mother brought me up to be as ethical as possible. i knew from her example the difference between right and wrong, that it was wrong to discriminate against the black people who lived in the housing project that i lived in providence, rhode island. and i believed as a person who studied history and loved history from the time i was a child, that this country that is supposed to be the shining beacon on the hill according to the people who settled the
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massachusetts bay colony, this country was formed on ideals of equality and justice. we have had to struggle to fight every generation to extend that idea of freedom and justice to more and more groups. and my group, my community is the latest to have to fight for that. and i am appalled and i am baffled at how representatives of our country and the senate and the house cannot see the historical respective on this, that some of our own representatives and senators who were there to protect the minority are allowing us to become the victims of the majority. which to me is unconstitutional. and i'm sorry to say that i can understand how they do not see that they are the philosophical
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descendents of those who defended slavery, who defended laws against mixed race couples and who defended the laws that allowed the separate but equal status that representative lewis so eloquently spoke of in his testimony. >> thank you mr. sorbo and sometimes it takes a history teacher to help us see our way clearly to the future. i too don congressman lewis' testimony very compelling and yours also. >> our next witness is senator -- our next one to question. >> i hope not a witness. i would yield to senator durbin. i would be delighted to yield, not grudgingly. [laughter]
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>> senator durbin? >> senator bob woman thou is a valued member of this committee. senator blumenthal please go ahead. >> thank you for your leadership and senator feinstein and other members of the committee who have joined in this cause in thank you to all the witnesses who are here today particularly to mr. sorbo from the town of berlin connecticut. is a small town but there are those of us who love it and i want to say at the very outset my thanks to you, all of you for giving a face and a voice to some abstract and seemingly confiscated principles of constitutional law and basic liberties and rights. you have given a face and a voice in terms of the practical consequences of their respect for marriage act and i regard
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this hearing as a really historic day for a nation. nations, like the pull, are judged by their capacity for growth and i think today marks another step in the growth of our nation and the progression toward recognizing some principles that go to the very core of what makes our nation the greatest in the history of the world. so, i thank all of you for being here today. you know, for me, some of these questions are much narrower than the constitutional issues that are being debated in the courts because what really matters here is the respect for connecticut's law and mr. sorbo uber married under connecticut law. respect for connecticut law means the federal government should recognize that law and give it the kind of sanctity
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that the founders of this nation meant for the laws of our states to have. states do have that prerogative to establish the rules that surround marriage just as they do inheritance and divorce. and so for the federal government to discriminate against some marriages in the way that it does is also disrespect for connecticut's law as well as connecticut's people and connecticut's marriage is. so, in order to illustrate some of the practical consequences here i think you mentioned the effect on your ability to access colin's i.r.a.. i wonder if you could expand a little bit about how you are unable, and most people don't think of fire a's is being
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federal and how you are unable to access it as fully as he would have been otherwise if doma had not existed? >> after colin died, i went to our bank to speak to a financial adviser about how to transfer all of the assets, which we had done everything we could to protect in terms of putting it in both of our names. yale university university required colin to have that i.r.a. in his name so that when he passed away, and we try to transfer that over, because i had the right of survivorship, we spend hours and hours and hours on the phone. it would have been almost a comic or a-gram if it had been recorded, because my financial adviser and i sat there talking
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to one person after another and each one of them at abigail had a different opinion about what needed to be done in disagreeing and disagreeing and so on. it took us many hours in many days to finally get it transferred over. the ultimate result was that i guess they went to one of their lawyers. i am not sure but whoever they went to finally decided that they could not recognize where marriage because of federal law, because of doma. and so therefore, we had to transfer that i.r.a. into an inherited i.r.a.. now the difference -- i am not an expert on this, but my understanding was that because my marriage wasn't recognized, it had to go over as an inherited i.r.a. which then i had to begin withdrawing on the december after the year following colin's death.
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now, if i had been a woman, that would not have been the case. i could have deferred withdrawing that until i think it was by law, you have to begin withdrawing a minimum amount. that a not seem like a lot, but that seven extra years would have allowed me to build up that asset before i began to withdraw from it. and that is what my financial adviser would have liked to have done, because at my age i am still fairly healthy. i go to the gym mack and try to take care of myself as much as i can. i am not facing large health bills which i've might be facing in the future, and so and of course inflation eating up my income. every retired person knows that inflation is the big overlay in the closet for us. so, that denied me the ability to do what what i could've done could have done and what my sister could do is to build up
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that asset until she was 70 and a half. >> and i think as you have testified, just to complete your story, the practical consequences extended also to family and medical leave act, retirement survivor benefits and a for radio very practical sizable consequences to you because of doma which would not have otherwise existed even though under connecticut law you are lawfully married. >> thank you mr. chairman. >> is there anyone i can yield to? [laughter] thank you very much madam chair and thanks to the witnesses who are here today. there are events in the life of a senator that are memorable and one of those that comes to my mind was attending the bill signing ceremony where president obama signed a law which repealed "don't ask don't tell."
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it was a day of great celebration and relief. the rabbi who gave the invocation that day -- i remember his words -- said, when you look into the eyes of another person, if you don't see the face of god, they see the face of another human being. and i thought to myself, that really is what this conversation is all about. recognizing our own frailties and weaknesses and strengths of seeing in the face of every person another human being. the woman who gave the invocation that day with someone i had never met and still have not met but have admired and told her story many times. a retired u.s. air force colonel marguerite. this is a woman who served as a combat nurse during get non, risking her life for a minute and women in uniform and progressing through the ranks to the status of kernel and then answering honestly one day on a questionnaire if she was.
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for that she was discharged from service. there was never any suggestion that she had ever done anything wrong or ever feel that her duty to her country. but she was the victim of outright discrimination. senator grassley was kind enough to mention my name in his opening statement and i thank him and mention the fact that i voted for the defense of marriage act. it is true and others did as well. i want to use that an explanation or excuse. but i recall when a former congressman from illinois named abraham lincoln was challenged because he changed his position on an issue and his explanation was very simple. he said, i would rather be right some of the time that wrong all of the time. that is why i am an original co-sponsor with the respect for marriage act that senator feinstein has introduced. i believe this is eminently fair and gives to those who are in a loving relationship an
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opportunity to receive benefits which they deserved. mr. minnery i read your testimony. i wasn't here when he presented it as if we are truly interested in the welfare of children, and we are, it seems to me that denying basic natural resources to a loving couple of an adopted child is not the way to help that child. infected think we can find in many instances, families that struggle i naturally have a tougher time raising children. not all the time, but many times. it just makes a lot of sense for us to recognize under the law that when it comes to federal benefits, the same sex relationship is recognized in the state and is going to be recognized by our federal government across the united states of america. i would just close by saying that i know that this is an issue which has evolved in america. the feelings of most americans
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about same-sex marriage have changed and i think they have changed for the better. this new law does not and dade any, does not and take any religion to change its beliefs. this new law does not end date in a state to its laws. what it does to say that as a nation our federal government is going to recognize the rights of same-sex couples to the basic benefits which they are entitled to. this could have been a hearing under my subcommittee for constitutional law and human rights, but chairman leahy asked if he could make it a full committee hearing. i'm glad he has that sold more of my colleagues could come here and speak and be on the record and in support for the respect of marriage act. >> thank you very much senator durbin. let me think of the witnesses. we have abode at 12:00. there is another panel coming up, so i'm going to move on. i hope that is agreeable but let me thank everyone. i have been to a lot of these and this was very good testimony
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and i think all of us will remember it. so thank you all very much and we will move onto the next panel and i will quickly introduce them. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]